“I lit my pipe and walked boldly” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Twelve

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11

Reeder’s diary.

The proslavery mob had yet to come for Andrew Reeder, but he expected them on May 22, 1856. He had hidden in Kansas City for eleven days, been seen at least once, and closeted in the same hotel for long enough that anyone hanging about might have noticed something off. With the free state hotel in Lawrence ruined, the Missourians aimed to come back and finish the job. Reeder and his friends thought that, whether they knew of him or not, the proslavery men would probably ransack his hotel on general principles. Consequently, they planned to get him to a private residence that night. Kansas first governor shaved his whiskers, dirtied his face, and dressed as an Irish laborer for his escape.

Then he had to wait for the evening to slowly pass. A bit before six, Kansas City threw a mass meeting. The mayor ran the show, where

It was ascertained that not more than 60 men could be raised to defend the house, and arms for not more than 25 or 30; and the Mayor informs Edward Eldridge that he cannot undertake to defend it, unless he can show the papers to prove that it does not belong to the Emigrant Aid Company.

The hotel might not have belonged to the Aid Company, but Colonel Eldridge (not Edward) handled all its business and he had the paperwork with him at Lawrence. On top of that news, Reeder got another scare when a man carrying water came into his room. The free state delegate had thought the door locked and could only pretend to sleep while the man did his work.

Reeder’s time came before the mob. At eight thirty his accomplices told him that they had all in readiness, including his new host, Brown, ready to take him home. Reeder opted out of going in his company. He doesn’t say why, only that he determined to join Brown somewhere on the road. His friends left him and Reeder made his exit:

I lit my pipe and walked boldly down the front stairs, through the office, which was crowded with people. Elbowing through them, I passed into the bar-room and out on the steps. Dozens of people were sitting and standing about the door and on the sidewalk, many of them the most obnoxious men, and who were well acquainted with me.  I stood quite unconcerned on the steps until I saw a vacant chair, and went to it and sat down.

Maybe Reeder discovered some ice water in his veins at just that moment, but earlier in the day he seems almost manic with despair. I suspect he polished his manly bravery while recalling the moment, but he could just have had that good of a disguise. He shaved his whiskers, and the governor had a conspicuous set. As a bearded person myself, I can tell you that I look different without mine. Those who knew Reeder might not have recognized him just on that account, let alone his dressing down and dirtying his face.

Still, the delegate didn’t leave it all to his disguise and the press of humanity. He had arranged for his friends to single out the “nearest and most dangerous” of the crowd, who they should chat up and distract. It worked. Reeder sat in his chair for a few minutes, then

walked deliberately up the road, unmolested and unrecognized, with a great sense of relief.

Reeder met up with Brown and they walked to his house up on the edge of the woods, some ways from town. There, for the first time in more than a week, Andrew Reeder

Sat out of doors and enjoyed the freedom and fresh air.


“My throat chokes and my eyes fill” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Eleven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10

Reeder’s diary.

Andrew Reeder heard of another boat that might take him away from Kansas City on Wednesday morning, May 21, 1856. He had hidden in a hotel there for ten days and seen many boats come and go. The Converse had come to Kansas City and its captain promised to take Reeder along, provided the free state delegate would agree to remove to Weston or Lexington. The boat would not remain at Kansas City to allow a night boarding, but it regularly stayed over at those towns. Reeder would not hear of it:

What nonsense! Drive 43 miles to Weston or Lexington, through most dangerous neighborhoods to dangerous places.

One can’t fault Reeder for that caution. Even without proslavery men abroad on their way to Kansas, the captain asked him to go either to where enemies took Charles Robinson or to the doorstep of Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow. Reeder might have poor judgment now and then, particularly when he stood to profit from it, but he knew better than to risk his neck on that gambit. He asked his emissary to out him to the captain and promise $200 to either linger in Kansas City Saturday night or come early Friday, but the boat had gone missing in the interim.

The next day Reeder got more dire news out of Lawrence, where the proslavery men had struck. His captivity wore on him. He missed his wife and despaired that if the proslavery men caught and killed him, she would learn it from the newspapers:

God have mercy on her and my dear, dear Ida, my own fond Emma, and my three loved and precious boys, whose hearts are filled with the image of their father, and whom, next to their noble, generous, inestimable mother, I love with deepest affection. How these ties drag me down! If not for them how boldly and proudly could I not denounce and defy my pursuers, and die in conflict with a thousand of them.

Nineteenth century writers, especially men, love to put on a show of bravado. Some probably meant it, but these things always have a degree of performance about them. Yet here Reeder appears in genuine despair, frustrated by constant missed boats and more than a week closeted in a hotel room he left only to move to another. He hid far from home and alone under great strain, by now thinking that any chance of revival might hang on his getting clear of Kansas City. The proslavery men had destroyed the free state hotel in Lawrence and now Reeder thought they might come for him:

The Pro-Slavery boarders are leaving and taking away their families and baggage. Persons in the secrets of the Pro-Slavery party come privately and warn their friends in the house. […]

Mr. Leonard Arms come in to say that it is beyond all question the intention to destroy this house as soon as they get back from Lawrence, but he thinks that if I can get out by 8 or 9 o’clock, I can get away. Sad chance!

Reeder thought he might find a new hiding spot in town, but it could only last him a few days and he would still need to get out of Kansas City somehow. He expected that if the drunken mob took him, Kansas’ first governor would survive less than an hour. Hoped he could keep his family from his thoughts when they came, so he might die bravely,

But when I recur to them, my throat chokes and my eyes fill.

Risk or not, to stay meant death. Reeder arranged to go to the home of a Brown. He disguised himself around five in the evening, in

the dress of an Irish laborer. Have cut off my whole beard and soiled my face with cork, burnt. The ladies, and Mr. Edward and Monroe Eldridge, have been in, and we had a hearty laugh over it, although it is a matter of life and death.

Then Reeder had to wait. While he did, a proslavery mob came and crossed the river, threatening the American Hotel “whooping and yelling like Indians” and firing guns. Reeder drew “a hasty last will” and left it and his diary with Mr. Coates.

“This is very awkward” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Ten

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Sorry for the delayed post, Gentle Readers. Scheduling error on my part.

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9

Reeder’s diary.

Andrew Reeder came to Kansas City on May 11, 1856. He had wanted out of the town ever since he arrived, but the fates conspired against his escape. Boats came down in broad daylight, which made a discrete nighttime boarding impossible. Parties of armed men passed through town daily, or near enough, aimed at eliminating his antislavery allies in Kansas Territory. On May 17, someone probably saw him hiding in his hotel room and Kansas first governor became more determined still to get clear. He expected capture might mean his life and it would surely end his mission to raise support for the free state cause in the North. Finally, Reeder’s thoughts seem to have often turned to his wife.

Come May 20, Kansas City’s most anxious white visitor missed his second boat due to its arrival after sunrise. Around eleven in the morning, he got another scare. The women who had helped hide him got Reeder out of his room to clean it. They put him in another room, which had no luck, then

the chambermaid stepped in, and, though called back at once, probably saw me. Afterwards she knocked at the door and I opened it and met her face to face. She stepped back and said she would come again. This is very awkward and makes it necessary for us to decide whether we will trust her in full and bribe her.

Words and money tend to bind better than words alone. Reeder’s accomplices spoke to the chambermaid and felt sure of her, but they urged Reeder to abandon his plan to take a boat down the Missouri in favor of posing as an emigrant heading to Kansas, a plan they intended to try themselves. Reeder didn’t think that at all safe, just as he had previously rejected plans to get out by land. He had news of a boat set to arrive at night and remain at Kansas City until morning. The cloudy sky would make it an ideal time to take his chance, so the free state delegate asked for Mr. Coates to arrange things.

Coates had gone off to Westport to see Charles Robinson, the captured free state governor, at Robinson’s request. That put Reeder in the hands of a Conant, who he reached through Monroe Eldridge. Conant refused to help Reeder arrange escape on the grounds

that he is afraid of the consequences to himself and his store if it should be known, and he considers it too dangerous to approach the captain with any proposition.

Proslavery violence often targeted dissenting whites; Benjamin Franklin Stringfellow railed about them in Negro-Slavery, No EvilConant had good reason to fear retaliation for doing something so potentially public as asking a captain if he would smuggle an antislavery fugitive from Kansas off to safety. Reeder pleaded with Conant to just go and ask the captain’s politics, so Reeder might send for the man and ask himself. Conant again refused. The delegate ran down the list of his allies: “sick,” “gone,” and “not well.” Monroe Eldridge might have helped, but “has the whole business on his hands.” Reeder doesn’t say what he meant there, but it sounds like Eldridge served as the free state party’s main agent in Kansas City and compromising him would do too much damage to the cause. Someone had to run the guns.

A Mr. Taylor “agreed at once” and learned that an Alabaman captained the Edinboro. Border ruffians had gone on board “talking and drinking with him.” Reeder mused that he might have given bribing the captain a try anyway, but opted not to risk it. He just could not watch a break.

“The fates seem to be against us” The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Nine

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8

Reeder’s diary.


Andrew Reeder, Kansas’ first governor and presently delegate to Congress for the free state government, remained in hiding in a hotel in Kansas City. He got scattered news of events in the territory, both of free state men suffering arrest and proslavery men crossing the border with an eye to destroying the movement to keep Kansas clear of slavery and black Americans. That news got more dire in the evening of May 15, but we will come back to events around Lawrence in time. For now, let’s stay with the delegate.

Come Friday, may 16, 1856, Reeder complained of the “monotony” of hiding out. He had only the women helping conceal him for occasional company. Reeder’s frequent informant, Colonel Eldridge, had gone off to Kansas and did not return as expected. The boredom could not last forever, though. That morning, Reeder relates that

the ladies had great difficulty in waiting on me. Mrs. E—- and Mrs. W—-, and a new-comer, all seemed as though their suspicions were excited, and they were on watch. Mrs. Coates and Mrs. Monroe Eldridge were in my room, and it was a long time before they could leave it. Mrs. Eldridge was probably seen to come out.

Reeder has changed rooms a few times now. It sounds like he presently occupied one officially vacant. With that story compromised, they moved him to another with the plan to let the room remain visibly open long enough for everyone to decide nothing unusual went on there. But either the unnamed newcomer or “Mrs. S.”, spotted Reeder during the move. She may not have known him as Andrew Reeder of Kansas fame, and rumors current put him captured at Leavenworth, but she had to know some odd man skulked about.

Boat after boat passes down before my window, and my confinement begins to be more and more galling and chafing. I must leave here soon, at all risks. My wife, to whom I dare not write, and could give no consolation if I did, must be alarmed at the newspaper accounts and Lowrey’s report, and I must get away from here.

Martin F. Conway

Martin F. Conway

Kansas first governor pleaded with Mrs. Coates “to have her husband get me off as quick as possible.” Coates obliged, promising that he would try to get Reeder on the Amazon when it arrived on the night of the eighteenth.

That Sunday brought M.F. Conway and P.C Schuyler, both free state men headed into Kansas. Conway resigned his seat in the Kansas legislature rather than wait for the proslavery men to expel him. Neither knew that they had their delegate to Congress just across the hall, but they talked loudly enough of their plans for him to overhear. Sunday did not bring the Amazon, which did not arrive until Monday at noon. It went off without Andrew Reeder, as he could hardly risk boarding it on broad daylight. Even ample moonlight had him worried. Nor would he risk going to hide in a private house as his accomplices asked of him.

Reeder held out his hopes for the W. Campbell, but it also let him down. It arrived only at seven thirty Tuesday morning. She came with few passengers and had a quick passage from Leavenworth, which would have made for an ideal escape had the boat arrived in the dark. Reeder despaired:

The fates seem to be against us.

More Bad News: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Eight

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7

Reeder’s diary.

May 15, 1856 found Andrew Reeder still closeted in a hotel in Kansas City, “elaborately cared for” by various ladies who would bring him food, flowers, “and attend to all my comforts.” All in all, Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress found it downright comfortable if he set aside the great issue of the day. He needed to be off raising support for the free state cause, not stuck in western Missouri. He also missed his “idolized, noble wife” and “precious, dearly-loved children.” That he had sent G.P. Lowrey ahead of him to bring news to his family, as well as lay down a false trail that might help Reeder escape wore on him as well. When Lowrey delivered his news, they would know their patriarch as a man on the run and in danger.

Reeder had news that the dragnet continued to tighten around Kansas. G.W. Brown remained a prisoner at Westport. Proslavery men stopped ordinary travelers on the road and stopped the mail for searching.

One traveler, coming down from Lawrence, was stopped on the road, and ordered to open his carpet-bag to see if he had any letters or dispatches from Lawrence, and, as he refused to be searched, it was cut open by the ruffians.

It would not do for the free state party to get news of their plight out in person or paper. More worrying still:

About 100 young men from the South, said to be from South Carolina and Georgia, arrived, as I am told, last evening, all armed and equipped after the fashion of Buford’s men, who, from their appearance, equipments, acts, and conversation, have evidently come, not as emigrants, but only to fight. About half of them went on to Leavenworth, and the residue landed here and went into the Territory, leaving their trunks here with Mr. Taylor, and saying that they did not want them along, as the fight would probably be over in a few weeks, and then they would go back.

Buford’s men, or a very similar group, had work ahead of him. That evening, Reeder got word secondhand from a member of the Blue Lodge that they had another invasion in the offing. They hoped to get together two thousand men and raze Lawrence for good, entering Kansas in small groups and avoiding the major roads to avoid notice until they arrived. They would take the town at night and under the pretext of enforcing indictments against its leaders. Samuel Lecompte had given them those indictments and proslavery men had come to Kansas back in December allegedly to maintain law and order. Thwarted then, the proslavery men would likely press far harder now.

Misdirection and Another Capture: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Seven

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary.

We left Andrew Reeder hiding out in a hotel in Kansas City, where he received news of Charles Robinson’s capture on May 13, 1856. Knowing that the proslavery dragnet reached further into Missouri than just the immediate border can’t have settled the delegate’s mind. Up to this point, Reeder had the company of G.P. Lowery. He advised Lowery to leave without him, on the first available boat and in a disguise. But before Lowery departed, the two arranged some misdirection. Reeder

had him to write a letter directed to me at Chicago, and mail it loosely sealed, to induce the belief that I was in the States, by the way of Nebraska and Iowa, as we were confident they would open it. I instructed him also, if he got safe to St. Louis, to telegraph up here that he had heard from me and that I was safe in Chicago.

Nineteenth century postmasters did open and scrutinize mail, most famously to hunt down antislavery publicans for destruction. Settled precedent dating back to Andrew Jackson’s administration blessed such business. Since postmasters received their jobs through patronage rather than from a professional civil service, even any inclined against such censorship had strong incentive to keep in line.

Reeder remained shut up in his room, though it seems that he had plenty of attention. He writes that no less than four ladies “most kindly waited on” him and “took a lively interest in my safety.” Come evening, Colonel Eldridge brought Reeder less enchanting company: the posse which had came for him at Lawrence had arrived at the hotel. The governor turned delegate assured Eldridge that they had a warrant for Reeder valid in Kansas, but not Missouri. Their authority ended at the border and no harm could come to him from helping Reeder out. However, should they come with a Missourian officer and process in hand, then Eldridge should give Reeder up to keep himself out of trouble.

Expecting them to come, I concealed this diary, and made preparations. I remained up, till midnight, and there was a constant running up and down from the street to their room. At 12 o’clock I went to bed and slept soundly.

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

Kansas’ first governor has sterner nerves than I do. He woke on the morning of the fourteenth to more welcome news. Eldridge came up and told Reeder that the posse had said nothing of him, but instead came for Grosvenor Lowery and Samuel Pomeroy, the latter an agent of the Emigrant Aid Company. But the good news came with some bad:

G.W. Brown, accompanied by Jenkins, had started for Lawrence, and had been stopped on the road by M’Gee’s party of Missourians (without any process, of course), and made prisoners. Have not learned what is done with them.

That day also brought a boat up to Kansas City which departed with great cheers from the town. Reeder thought that Robinson must have come through, but learned instead that Kansas City cheered a marshal’s party starting for Leavenworth. It says something for Reeder’s state of mind that news of an armed band heading into Kansas from Missouri came as a relief, though probably also to the fact that Andrew Reeder consistently stood for the party of Andrew Reeder. He had joined the free state movement late, when deprived of other means for political advance in Kansas, and under the condition that they make his grievance over shady land deals their own.

After a while, Reeder changed rooms for the second time. Things had quieted and the proper residents of the room had been out of it for some time. Anybody could start to wonder. At this point, Reeder hoped no one believed him present and so he might safely move on as soon as he could find a boat with a willing captain, which would remain docked through the night so he could quietly board. With Robinson captured, he needed to get moving regardless. It fell now to him to take up the governor’s mission and seek out the executives of Ohio, Michigan, and maybe even Iowa and Wisconsin to come to aid the free state cause.

“You are always in some scrape” The Capture of Charles Robinson, Part Two

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The Hunt for Andrew Reeder: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary is in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 3


While Andrew Reeder hid in a hotel in Kansas City, Charles and Sara Robinson traveled openly through the Show Me State. The free state first family made it to a ship and down the Missouri to Lexington before trouble found them. There a committee knocked on his door while the Governor slept. He got up, answered it, and learned that they meant to arrest him as a fugitive from justice. Robinson protested that they had no indictment against him and a fugitive would hardly travel in the open as he and his wife had. They wouldn’t hear it. Nor did they agree to let Robinson appeal to his fellow passengers for relief. Finally Charles Robinson asked his wife if he should use the pistol they had with them.

Sara Robinson told him to go for it on the grounds that the committee would either murder Robinson or hand him over to people who would. She had good reason to worry. Accepting arrest hadn’t saved Reese Brown back in January. Reeder fled Kansas rather than stay and make himself a cause célèbre when he heard that if he submitted, he would not make it out alive. If the free state delegate warranted a lynching, then why not the governor?

But the committee assured her that no harm should come to her husband, they would pledge their honor and lives if need be for his protection, if he would go with them; when Mrs. R. withdrew her objection, and both left the boat

The Robinsons left with the committee, who took them before a Judge Sawyer. This Sawyer of Missouri declined to get the Robinsons to whitewash any fences. He hailed originally from Massachusetts, the same as Robinson, “and treated his prisoner more like a prince than a fugitive from justice.”

That night another boat came into Lexington and a passenger on board, Dr. R. H. McDonald, caught wind of Robinson’s arrest. McDonald knew Robinson from their California days, when he took a bullet out of Kansas’ free state governor after a riot.

His first salutation was, “Well, it is you, sure enough! When I heard a man with your name was a prisoner I thought it must be you, as you are always in some scrape.”

Small world. McDonald’s wit did little for Robinson, though his decades-later recollection sounds like one of those things he told people many times over.

Judge Sawyer let Sara Robinson go on with the Howard Committee’s materials; nobody suspected any indictment against her. The Governor remained in custody for a week, at one point telling him that two men had come and tried to organize a lynch mob. When someone suggested the judge turn Robinson out armed the same as the mob, they declined to pursue the matter.

Robinson left Sawyer’s custody when word came from Lecompton that an indictment against him did exist and Wilson Shannon requested his extradition. At that point, the grand jury only had Robinson on the hook for “usurpation of office” rather than the more serious treason charge. A Deputy Marshal arrived, “armed and equipped with requisition, posse, revolvers, and conveyance” to collect the usurping Governor back to Kansas.

“They will kill you if you go” The Capture of Charles Robinson, Part One

Charles Lawrence Robinson

Charles Lawrence Robinson

The Hunt for Andrew Reeder: parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

Reeder’s diary is in Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, Volume 3

We left Andrew Reeder on the lam in Kansas City. A proslavery mob had come to his hotel in search of George Washington Brown, editor of the Herald of Freedom. They didn’t seem to know that Kansas’ free state delegate to Congress hid out under the same roof, though some thought to look for him all the same. A mob narrowly missed both men and lingered around the building for some time before dispersing. They must have thought Brown and/or Reeder still present, as they set watchers on the building before leaving. Reeder spent the night without so much as a candle in his room.

Tuesday, May 13, 1856 brought bad news. Charles Robinson and his wife, Sara, had left Kansas ahead of Reeder. Neither took the precaution of a disguise. According to the Governor’s Kansas Conflict they carried with them, on the advice of Howard and Sherman of the Committee,

the testimony already taken by the Congressional Committee as there was great danger that it might be seized and destroyed.

The Robinsons assumed that, since no indictment had yet come for them specifically, they could probably get clear of Kansas without trouble. They left by way of Missouri, which brought them to trouble. It happened that a proslavery convention had lately finished its work at Lexington, which Robinson believed involved planning for a new invasion of Kansas. The convention knew or suspected that Robinson would soon have an indictment against him.

The free state’s first family made their way through Kansas city without incident, boarding a steamboat there. The Governor took a nap and

was thus occupied when on arriving at Lexington he was aroused by loud raps at the door of his room. On opening it he was confronted by some gentlemen, who informed him they were appointed a committee to notify him that he must leave the boat at that place.

Robinson had come as far as Lexington, Missouri but would go no farther. They believed him a fugitive and intended his arrest. The Governor protested that he knew of no indictment against him and had not traveled under any subterfuge. Fugitives simply don’t behave like that. Improvising, Robinson tried to get up a mob. He learned that the boat housed many people “drinking freely” and asked to plead his case to them. Should the Governor convince the mob, then they would protect him.

That asked a great deal of a mob in Missouri’s slave country, but Robinson had few options. The committee come to arrest him refused to let him try, claiming that mobs would listen to no reason and the reason of a known antislavery man least of all.

It appearing that force would be used if necessary, Robinson referred the matter to Mrs. Robinson, whether use such means of defense as he had-one revolver-or to go with the committee, when she promptly replied, “They will kill you if you go, and you may as well make a stand here.”

Jim Crow Comes to Michigan

Gentle Readers, the triumphant story of the Civil Rights Movement ends in 1965 with the passage of the Voting Rights Act. Jim Crow died there, stabbed through the heart by Lyndon Johnson’s pen. Black Americans henceforth had protection against state governments that acted more as their jailers than their servants. Their laws did not say, in so many words, that no black person could cast a vote but the men who wrote them made sure it worked out that way. To grant the vote to subhumans would degrade actual people who, our most ancient creed holds, come exclusively in white skin. The Supreme Court has gotten at the law, cutting away many of its substantial protections. We must now believe that some states with a history of racial discrimination -a trait all fifty share- do not require special attention. As a result those same states have rushed to erect numerous obstructions to casting a vote, closing more than eight hundred polling places and writing laws against the phantom of voter impersonation fraud which they design to ensure black Americans don’t vote. The laws will not catch every black voter, of course, but they can swing close elections. Furthermore, their mere presence serves as a deterrent.

My state has had voter ID on the books since the Nineties. I disagreed with it then, on the grounds that the fraud it’s claimed to protect happens so rarely that these measures clearly constitute a solution looking for a problem. Even if someone went around to multiple polling places to cast votes under assumed names, complete with the correct addresses remembered on the spot and the person they posed as didn’t show up before or later and cast suspicion on the ballot by doing so, microscopic vote margins happen so rarely and unpredictably even in local races that they amount to statistical noise. An individual could cast no more than a handful of fake votes. As soon as you get enough people to really make a difference, things look more like territorial Kansas. Everybody who knows anything about elections already knows this.

But Michigan requires you to have identification so every time I go with my driver’s license in hand. I present it to one of my father’s old coworkers, a man who used to live less than a block from me. We know each other by sight. He passes it to his wife, who knows me just as well. They scan the license and compare my address and name with their records to discover, quelle surprise, I am who they thought I am. Then they mark my name off and hand me a ballot. The license adds no great security to the rest, but it does cost money and one has to go out and get a new one every now and then. If I lost my license or it was damaged and I could not get a new one before election day, I would have to swear an affidavit that I had the right to vote in my precinct and then proceed. More than eighteen thousand of my fellow Michigan residents did that this month. While not ideal, and clearly intended to deprive people of less means of their chance to vote, they state government hasn’t gotten all it paid for from this system. Black Michiganders still vote.

The Republicans who control the state government have had quite enough of that. The Party of Lincoln, founded in this state, has decided to throw in with Jefferson Davis and George Wallace. They insist that if you don’t have your ID, even if you have the right name and address and the risk of someone impersonating a voter is astronomically rare and unlikely to ever matter without being obvious to the dullest observer, you should have to cast a provisional ballot. They will cast it in the trash, only to rescue it if you provide your ID within ten days. In other words, if you have the misfortune of lacking an ID on election day you have less than two weeks to get fortunate enough, find out where and how you can prove your bona fides, and then get your vote counted long after the outcome has been announced.

Maybe people will do that, but the Michigan GOP hopes they will not. They have dug this law out of a drawer somewhere, in the lame duck session immediately after the election just as they did when they voted to eviscerate the right to unionize in our state. Now they rush to get it passed before opposition can mount. I suspect that, while their gerrymandering will keep them in control of the legislature, they worry about the governor’s race in 2018. Their incumbent poisoned thousands of black people, after all. Those people have families and friends who will vote, probably not for whoever they run for the top spot in the state.

This should remind us that Jim Crow disenfranchised black Americans by the millions because of their race, but also because of how they would vote. The Democratic party that erected the whole edifice knew full well that the freedpeople and their descendants would remember what party freed them and stood up for their rights. In much of the postwar South, if black men could vote then they would decide elections. In still more areas, they would have numbers enough to force white politicians to court their support or see it go to an opponent. We must remember segregation as a racial injustice, but we should not forget that racism doesn’t come down to pseudoscientific theories about superiority. Rather we invented white supremacy to justify an existing political and economic order against challenges to it. In suppressing the vote so they can keep winning elections, Republicans in Michigan and across the country have not departed from our most deadly creed; they have renewed it.

Trouble in Kansas City: The Hunt for Andrew Reeder, Part Six

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Andrew Horatio Reeder

Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

With news of proslavery forces preparing for another march against Lawrence, and word that complying with the subpoena that Samuel Lecompte’s grand jury issued for him might end in his death, Andrew Reeder had quite enough of Kansas for the nonce. His planned escape changed routes repeatedly over the night of May 9-10, 1856. In the end, Kansas’ first governor and present free state delegate to Congress hid out in a house a mile south of Lawrence. He remained closeted there on the tenth, receiving news that whatever posse meant to take him had not appeared.

Reeder and three companions finally got going at nine at night, hoping to get past Westport, Missouri, before daybreak. Showing his face there would surely cause him trouble. Running late, they stayed the night at the home of a man called Fish and took the additional precaution of hiding the horses and carriage. The next day, Sunday,

Many persons passed, through the day, and stopped; among them Milt. M’Gee, who would have given his whole team to know who was up stairs.

I can only imagine how nerve-wracking Reeder must have found that. Sit up as silently as you can, hearing people come and go and knowing one misstep might put him into the hands of men bent on his murder. But he endured, set out again that night, and made it to Kansas City around two in the morning. There G.P. Lowrey and a Colonel Eldridge had a room ready, though Reeder says they had “dangerous neighbors across the passage.”

George W. Brown

George W. Brown

A boat arrived at Kansas City on Monday, the twelfth. George Washington Brown came on it, fleeing his own arrest for running the Herald of Freedom. They had word that a mob might form to take Brown, though if they wanted him then they probably wouldn’t mind Reeder as a bonus. Reeder changed rooms to avoid them.

A mob of 30 or 40 assembled, headed by Milt. M’Gee, who came into the hotel, and going by mistake to O.C. Brown’s room, they dragged him out and took him down town-discovered their error and let him go. Col. Eldridge came up and informed me, that I might be prepared. Sent out for about 50 Michigan emigrants, who had come up to-day and camped near town.

A marshal involved himself then, forming a posse against the mob. Reeder gives frustratingly little detail on that. His marshal sounds like local constabulary rather than a federal marshal. Given he held a public position in Westport, he probably didn’t lean antislavery. He may have intervened on the grounds of public order, particularly if he knew in advance that the mob had the wrong Brown.

Eldridge told Reeder that the mob didn’t know about or suspect they had him near to hand; they just wanted Brown. The delegate doesn’t seem so confident of that. At one point

Looking out of my front windows, however, I saw and heard M’Gee, H.C. Pate, —– Winchester, —– Brockett, and another, in conversation, and Pate was instructing a man to go in and look for someone, and describing me, so that from what I heard I recognized the description.

Regardless, the mob didn’t care to pick a fight with the marshal’s posse, “suddenly” departing. Yet

In the evening it was found that men were posted all around the house to prevent any escapes – all over the hill back of the house and in the hacks and wagons in front, besides those walking up and down the street.